Mining is still one of the best-known crypto related activities. However, it is also one of the most misunderstood, with doubts ranging from what it really does or how much to expect as earnings. It is no doubt an intensive process that has also become a worldwide enterprise since 2015, though it emerged in 2009.
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What mining means
Mining, in blockchain terms, refers to a competition of sorts that takes place among active nodes within an ecosystem. This competition consists in finding the answer to a difficult math problem that can only be solved by participants via brute force – that is, by trial and error. This answer is a number, and it is referred to as the nonce. The first miner to find the nonce has the right to validate a block of transactions.
It is then the miner’s duty to ensure all the transactions in that block are legitimate in other to be authorized by the group of validators. As a reward for the effort, the miner gets a certain amount of crypto that varies depending on blockchains, which on Bitcoin, for example, amount equals to 6.25BTC for 1 block till mid-2024
Why mining is so expensive
Anyone who has investigated cryptocurrencies, and particularly into crypto mining has seen reports on how Bitcoin mining consumes massive amounts of energy. It can be quite profitable for most people, although it has only become a preserve of organizations, individuals, or parties with special and otherwise costly hardware.
While the above assertions are true for Bitcoin and some other digital currencies, there are still cryptocurrencies that can be mined to some degree without specialized equipment.
The reason mining consumes so much energy is simple: Since finding the nonce is a race, the miner must use the processing power of a mining hardware. Specialized hardware is designed by the manufacturers to specifically perform tasks by brute forcing these problems, but as should be obvious, high processing power usually comes with high energy usage. This is even more true when, as miners usually do, the hardware stays on and runs 24/7.
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On eligibility for mining
Most cryptocurrencies can be mined by anyone, and all you need for this is a computer or even a mobile phone. However, regular computers or phones are not optimized for mining. This leads to low performance, wasted processing power, and poor earnings. Still, many cryptocurrencies can still be mined with regular household electronics. Bitcoin, however, is not one of them.
Why mining is becoming less common
Over the last few years, cryptocurrency mining has become less and less common with new projects. This is both due to the extreme resource intensity of mining algorithms and the vulnerability to 51% attacks that cryptocurrency algorithms must contend with globally.
The touted option to the above is the proof-of-stake model, where instead of wasting resources solving a random problem, nodes instead stake (that is, swap) some of their cryptocurrency in exchange for the chance to authenticate transactions. If the resulting block then passes the proof-of-consensus, a certain incentive then goes to the approving nodes.
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The outlook for the cryptocurrency market is one that presents a shift to less energy-intensive algorithms as the Ethereum blockchain has done in recent weeks. With the crypto mining process becoming energy-efficient, its uses and adoption should soar in the years to come
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